Fifty just might be the magic number for Dal Leck.
The 50-year-old Hayden firefighter competed in the 50 and older age category for the first time at the regional Firefighter's Combat Challenge in Portland, Maine, recently.
Leck placed second in the competition, garnering him a sixth-place national ranking in his age category and a ticket to the World's challenge Nov. 9 to 13 in Las Vegas.
"I really enjoy it," said Leck, who has qualified for the World's competition four of the five years he has gone to regionals.
The regional competition course included climbing and descending stairs in a five-story tower in full gear while handling a 45-pound hose pack. Competitors also had to drive a 180-pound moving beam 5-feet back with a large hammer, navigate around a zig-zag of fire hydrants and drag a 175-pound "rescue Randy" dummy 100 feet.
Leck did all of that in just 2:10, placing 27th overall among 100 firefighters. His goal is to place in the top three at the World's competition.
"It takes a lot of dedication to be competitive," said Leck, who is a full-time firefighter at Yampa Valley Regional Airport and has volunteered with the West Routt Fire Protection District for 13 years.
Leck typically trains eight to 10 hours a week from February until the World's competitions. A combination of weight training, aerobic exercises such as running up stairs and hills and bike riding and weekly runs through a simulated race course makes up Leck's training routine.
Firefighting competitions were started to promote fitness in the fire service, in which half of all deaths are cardiac-related, Leck said.
"Firefighting is a pretty physical job," he said. "This gives me the confidence to know I can perform about any task that I need to."
Leck started competing to get in shape and stayed with it to get more firefighters in Routt County excited about fitness.
He wanted to gather a regional team of firefighters to compete in the team and relay events at the competitions. The relay events are much easier to train for because each person in the team focuses on one element of the race, he said.
Time and schedule issues have prevented a regional team effort, though Leck still has hope.
"I'm always open to having a team," he said. "If someone is interested, I'd be tickled to death to do that."
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.